Friday, October 11, 2019

191009 - BRAHMANAS

BRAHMANAS - Sruti - Ritual Guide
The Brahmanas are the commentaries on the hymns of the four Vedas. They are a layer or category of Vedic Sanskrit texts embedded within each Veda, and form a part of the Hindu Sruti literature. They are primarily a digest incorporating myths, legends, the explanation of Vedic rituals and in some cases speculations about natural phenomena or philosophy.
The Brahmanas are particularly noted for their instructions on the proper performance of rituals, as well as explain the original symbolic meanings - translated to words and ritual actions in the main text. Brahmanas lack a homogeneous structure across the different Vedas, with some containing chapters that constitute Aranyakas or Upanishads in their own right.
Each Vedic shakha (school) has its own Brahmana. Brahmana texts existed in ancient India, many of which have been lost. A total of 19 Brahmanas are extant at least in their entirety basically because these texts were orally taught for generations without documentation. Four Vedas, Brahmanas, Aranyakas and early Upanishads were documented in pre-Buddhist times (ca. 600 BCE). Brahmanas could be dated to about 900 BCE, while the youngest (such as the Shatapatha Brahmana), were complete by about 700 BCE. 
Mythology and Rituals
The Brahmanas layer of Vedic literature contain the exposition of the Vedic rites and rituals. For example, the first chapter of the Chandogya Brahmana, one of the oldest Brahmanas, includes eight suktas (hymns) for the ceremony of marriage and rituals at the birth of a child. The first hymn is a recitation that accompanies offering a Yajna oblation to deity Agni (fire) on the occasion of a marriage, and the hymn prays for prosperity of the couple getting married. The second hymn wishes for their long life, kind relatives, and a numerous progeny. The third hymn is a mutual marriage pledge, between the bride and groom, by which the two bind themselves to each other, as follows (Chāndogya Brāhmaa, Chapter 1).
यदेतद्धृदयं तव तदस्तु हृदयं मम ।        यदिदं हृदयं मम तदस्तु हृदयं तव ॥
That heart of thine shall be mine,   and this heart of mine shall be thine.
The next two hymns of the first chapter of the Chandogya Brahmana invoke deities Agni (fire), Vayu (air), Kandramas (moon), and Surya (sun) to bless the couple and ensure healthful progeny. The sixth through last hymn of the first chapter in Chandogya Brahmana are not marriage-related, but related to hymns that go with ritual celebrations on the birth of a child, and wishes for health, wealth and prosperity with a profusion of milch-cows and artha.
The Brahmanas are particularly noted for their instructions on the proper performance of rituals, as well as explain the symbolic importance of sacred words and ritual actions in the main text. These instructions insist on exact pronunciation (accent), chhandas (meters), precise pitch, with coordinated movement of hand and fingers – that is, perfect delivery. Satapatha Brahamana, for example, states that verbal perfection made a mantra infallible, while one mistake made it powerless. Scholars suggest that this orthological perfection preserved Vedas in an age when writing technology was not in vogue, and the voluminous collection of Vedic knowledge were taught to and memorized by dedicated students through Svādhyāya, then remembered and verbally transmitted from one generation to the next.


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